Roman Catholic Archbishop Rembert Weakland agreed in 1998 to pay $450,000 to a man who accused him of sexual assault, according to documents cited Thursday by ABC News.
ABC said the agreement had required Paul J. Marcoux, 53, to keep silent.
“I was involved in a cover-up. I accepted money to be silent about it, not to speak out against what was going on,” Marcoux said in an interview broadcast on “Good Morning America.”
Marcoux (pronounced mar COO) said he was sexually assaulted 20 years ago, when he was a student at Marquette University and had gone to the archbishop seeking advice about entering the priesthood.
Marcoux told the network Weakland “started to try and kiss me and continued to force himself on me, pull down my trousers and attempted to fondle me.”
“Think of it in terms of date rape,” Marcoux told ABC.
ABC said as part of the settlement, the archbishop and the archdiocese denied the claims. It said the church declined to comment until the report was aired. Matthew Flynn, an attorney for the archdiocese, reached after the interview aired on the East Coast but before it appeared in Milwaukee, declined comment to The Associated Press. Jerry Topczewski, the spokesman for the archdiocese, did not immediately return calls from the AP.
The network also quoted from an 11-page handwritten letter that it said was written by Weakland. The letter, dated Aug. 25, 1980, said Weakland could not pay Marcoux more than $14,000 to settle the case.
“I should not put down on paper what I would not want the whole world to read. But here goes anyway,” the letter said.
“I felt like the world’s worst hypocrite. So gradually I came back to the importance of celibacy in my life. …”
The ABC report said Marcoux sought more money in 1997 and the archbishop paid $450,000 to settle the case on condition of secrecy.
Weakland, 75, who is said to be on the verge of retirement, has been under renewed criticism for how he dealt with a sexually abusive Roman Catholic priest in 1979.
In a newly released 1993 court document, Weakland said he moved the Rev. William Effinger to a new church after the priest admitted molesting a 13-year-old boy. Weakland issued a public apology in 1992 over the Effinger case.
Earlier this month, with sex abuse scandals battering dioceses across the country, he said the Milwaukee Archdiocese would adopt a zero tolerance policy toward molestation by priests. He also wrote a letter apologizing to anyone who was sexually abused by a priest and appointed a commission to review allegations of sexual abuse in the archdiocese.